If the idea of fresh groceries excites you like it does me, the summertime return of outdoor markets is cause for celebration. Thanks to Savorfull, I had the opportunity to tour Detroit’s Eastern Market with Savorfull Nutritionist Laura Bonhard, MSPH, BS. Whether you typically venture to a smaller farmers market or a larger wholesale one, these tips will help you make the most of your trip!
Things to Do Before You Go to the Farmers Market
Because fresh fruits and vegetables are picked locally, recently and at their most ripe, they don’t require long-term transportation. As a result, their nutrition, taste and texture are incomparable. Unfortunately, their lifespan is disappointing; because the produce from your market hasn’t been modified by the corporate distribution system or stamped with a specific expiration date, it will likely go bad sooner rather than later. Instead of overbuying food and wasting money, establish exactly what you need for the week before you head out. If you go as far as planning specific meals for the week, strolling through the market could be as simple as gathering a list of ingredients for your favorite recipes.
Bring Your Own Bag
Not only will this environmentally-friendly decision save you from requiring paper or plastic from every individual vendor, but it’ll also improve your shopping experience by consolidating the goods you accumulate throughout the day. A sturdy canvas bag or small shopping cart works great for holding fruits and vegetables, but you may want to consider a cooler or cooler bag for meats, cheeses, eggs or other goods best kept chilled.
Be Mindful of Your Money
When embarking on a shopping trip, it’s easy to forget that credit and debit cards aren’t accepted everywhere – remember to bring enough cash or locate a nearby ATM, because most vendors will only trade berries for bills!
Tips for Shopping Smart at the Market
Talk It Up
One of Laura’s best shopping suggestions is that a trip to the market is all about embracing the perks of shopping outside the (supermarket) box. Do here what you can’t do elsewhere – interact with the vendors! Talking with the men and women who provide and sell your goods provides the opportunity for you to get to know both the food and the people. Where is the farm located and who works there? When were the crops picked? Are they organic – why or why not? Were chemicals involved – if so, what are they? No one ever said a shopping trip couldn’t double as a valuable learning experience!
Keep an Open Mind
These classic words of wisdom can go a long way. While the aisles of your supermarket house familiar foods you’ve seen and eaten before, the farmers market can expose you to the awesomely unfamiliar if you let it. Don’t limit yourself to the recognizable: Take your time to embrace the market’s smells and samples while being mindful of all the available options. When something odd and interesting catches your eye, don’t be afraid to embrace your curiosity. There’s no need to carry on confused; use the opportunity to ask questions, and the vendor can explain what it is, how and when to use it and what to use it with. And don’t be discouraged by your ignorance. Even nutritionist Laura admits with excitement, “Even I have no idea what to do with a pumpkin tip!” If you’re willing to embrace the unfamiliar, the rare and unique goods only available at a market may transform your done-before dishes. Remember: Your favorite foods today were once foods you never tried before!
Farmers Market Buzzwords
We’ve all heard these terms thrown around before, but how many of us know their true meaning? Laura helped clarify the following:
If fruits and vegetables are grown organically, it means they’re free from synthetic pesticides. Note: This doesn’t mean they’re necessarily free from all chemicals! Organic farming is continuously growing in popularity because it benefits the health of both the farmer and the consumer while also saving local water, soil and air from environmental damage.
Genetically modified organisms are in 60–70% of all processed foods. These engineered foods are products of laboratory intervention, often altered to be stronger, bigger or more flavorful. Rule of thumb: If the food label includes corn or soy, it’s modified.
Certified Organic / Certified GMO
These titles mean the same as their “non-certified” counterparts – they just indicate USDA designation. Because most local farmers don’t go through the process or payment required for official acknowledgement, you probably won’t see these terms applied to your farmers market goods.
With the support of shoppers like you, local farmers can continue producing delicate and unique crops that bring flavor and variety to your kitchen. Do you have any other shopping suggestions? Let us know – we’d love to hear them!